Monday, March 2, 2020

2020 USA Racquetball High School Championships

The 2020 USA Racquetball High School Championships wrapped on the weekend in Portland, Oregon, and there are a couple of fun things to highlight from the event. In one of the most remarkable matches you could see anywhere, Antonio Rojas won the Boy’s #1 Singles division in a tie-breaker over Nikhil Prasad, 15-11, 12-15, 11-10.

That’s impressive enough, but Rojas did it by coming back from 10-2 down in the breaker. Prasad started out the breaker on fire, as he went up 5-0 in the blink of an eye. A second blink and it was 10-2.

After getting his 10th point, Prasad let out a big yell. The yell was his first of the game, and it seemed out of character. Rojas, who seems a more fiery kid, yelled more during the match than Prasad, and if that’s the kind of guy you are, then fair enough. But if it's not the kind of guy you are, then maybe it's best not to do so.

Now, these are kids, and we’re not interested in being critical of them. Athletic competitions are stressful situations, and many adults have lost their heads in the heat of the moment. Apparently, Prasad is only 14 and Rojas 17, and asking teen-agers to keep their emotions under control can be a big ask under normal circumstances. It’s a huge ask under stressful circumstances, like the tie-breaker of a championship match.

But the teaching point is that if you want to perform your best under stress - whether it’s in sport or not - you want to learn some emotional control. Emotions are great in the long run, because that’s where we get our motivation from, and they are what drive us to achieve our goals. However, in the moment of performance, emotions can be distracting, and you want to learn how to deal with them, so you can perform your best.

A forehand winner by Rojas denied Prasad his first match point, and that started Rojas’s comeback. Racquetball comebacks often involve good serving, and Rojas’s was no different, as he hit four aces and a service winner in his comeback; he also had an ace for his 2nd point of the game.

Prasad did get a sideout at 10-4, and called a timeout at that point. However, Rojas hit a forehand winner to escape Prasad’s 2nd match point. He got five points on consecutive rallies to make the score 10-9, so Prasad called his 2nd timeout.

When play resumed, Rojas double faulted - hitting two drive serves to the left - the serve that was getting him his aces. That wasn’t good, and you thought maybe that will be a fatal error.

But it wasn’t as Rojas hit a forehand return winner off a Prasad drive serve to the right side. Prasad had some success serving to the right, so it wasn’t an unexpected choice for his 3rd match point.

An ace to the left put Rojas on match point at 10-10. But then he skipped a drive serve! That doesn’t happen very often, and maybe reflected the stress of the moment. Yet Prasad couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, as he skipped a forehand shot close to the right wall.

Rojas called his 2nd timeout to compose himself. But that didn’t work as Prasad hit a serve return backhand winner when play resumed. That was the first of four sideouts. Then with his 4th match point, Rojas hit a drive serve to the left for an ace to win the match, 11-10.

Prasad had 6 match points, but to be fair, he only skipped one of them, as Rojas hit winners on the other five. It was more a case of Rojas winning the match, rather than Prasad losing it.

If you want to see it again - and you do - check out the entire match out on the USAR Livestream channel, where you can watch some of the other action from Portland.

In girl’s play, Annie Roberts, the top seed, won the Girl’s #1 Singles division by defeating #2 Heather Mahoney, 15-3, 15-11, in what was a battle of two USA Junior Team members. Roberts also won the Girl’s #1 Doubles division with Kelsey Klinger, as they got the better of 10th seeds Arya Cyril and Esha Cyril, 15-8, 15-11.

The last four teams in the Boy’s #1 Doubles division were the 9th, 10th, 11th and 13th seeds. It’s always fun when lower seeds go deep in a draw, but having all four teams outside the top 8 seeds is incredible! Not sure any major event has ever had that happen.

Given that situation, perhaps it was most appropriate that the lowest seeds won the final, as 13th seeds Vedant Chauhan and Darren Lee defeated 10th seeds Cole Hartman and Nathan Soltis, 15-1, 15-8. In the semi-finals, Chauhan and Lee beat 9th seeds Cody Boucher and Brady Reynolds, 15-5, 15-3, while Hartman and Soltis defeated 11th Alec Growe and Adam Pendleton, 15-7, 15-3.

The next big USAR event will be the Intercollegiate Championships later this month at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 25-28.

2020 USA Racquetball High School Championships
Portland, Oregon - February 26 - March 1, 2020

Boy’s #1 - Singles - Final

1) Antonio Rojas d. 3) Nikhil Prasad, 15-11, 12-15, 11-10


1) Antonio Rojas d. 5) Julius Ellis, 15-1, 15-5
3) Nikhil Prasad d. 2) Vedant Chauhan, 8-15, 15-5, 11-7

Girl’s #1 - Singles - Final

1) Annie Roberts d. 2) Heather Mahoney, 15-3, 15-11


1) Annie Roberts d. 5) Erin Slutzky, 15-9, 15-10
2) Heather Mahoney d. 6) Shane Diaz, 15-6, 15-9

Boy’s #1 - Doubles - Final

13) Vedant Chauhan & Darren Lee d. 10) Cole Hartman & Nathan Soltis, 15-1, 15-8


13) Vedant Chauhan & Darren Lee d. 9) Cody Boucher & Brady Reynolds, 15-5, 15-3
10) Cole Hartman & Nathan Soltis d. 11) Alec Growe & Adam Pendleton, 15-7, 15-3

Girl’s #1 - Doubles - Final

1) Kelsey Klinger & Annie Roberts d. 10) Arya Cyril & Esha Cyril, 15-8, 15-11


1) Kelsey Klinger & Annie Roberts d. 4) Bella Bertarelli & Grace Maloney, 15-3, 15-3
10) Arya Cyril & Esha Cyril d. 6) Hannah Carver & Megan Carver, 13-15, 15-14, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball….

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